DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA’I: A Novel
Author: Alan Brennert
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 320 Pages
Available for Pre-Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, Powell’s
My Rating: 5 Stars
Alan Brennert is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. He grew up in New Jersey but moved to California in 1973. His novel Moloka’i was a national bestseller and a One Book, One San Diego selection for 2012. It also received the Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the 2006 Book Club Book of the Year. His next novel, Honolulu, won First Prize in Elle Magazine’s Literary Grand Prix for Fiction and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post. Of his novel Palisades Park, People Magazine said: “Brennert writes his valentine to the New Jersey playground of his youth in Ragtime-style, mixing fact and fiction. It’s a memorable ride.”His work as a writer-producer for the television series L.A. Law earned him an Emmy Award and a People’s Choice Award in 1991. He has been nominated for an Emmy on two other occasions, once for a Golden Globe Award, and three times for the Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Teleplay of the Year. Alan’s short story “Ma Qui” was honored with a Nebula Award in 1992. His story “Her Pilgrim Soul” was adapted by Brennert himself for the Alan Menken musical Weird Romance in 1992. His novel, Daughter of Moloka’i is a follow-up to Moloka’i that tells the story of Rachel Kalama’s daughter Ruth, her early life, her internment during World War II, and her eventual meeting with her birth mother, Rachel. The novel explores the women’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at it in Moloka’i.
“The highly anticipated sequel to Alan Brennert’s acclaimed book club favorite, and national bestseller, Moloka’i” – St. Marin’s Press
Alan Brennert’s beloved novel Moloka’i, currently has over 600,000 copies in print. This companion tale tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama—quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa—was forced to give up at birth.
The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II—and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.
Daughter of Moloka’i expands upon Ruth and Rachel’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at in Moloka’i. It’s a richly emotional tale of two women—different in some ways, similar in others—who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another. And for Ruth it is a story of discovery, the unfolding of a past she knew nothing about. Told in vivid, evocative prose that conjures up the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures, it’s the powerful and poignant tale that readers of Moloka’i have been awaiting for fifteen years.
As the publisher’s description is thoroughly detailed for Moloka’i and his sequel Daughter of Moloka’i, there is nothing further for me to add without risking spoiler alerts. I lived on two of the Hawaiian Islands for three years, and upon reading Moloka’i and Daughter of Moloka’i, I found myself transported back to the beauty of the Hawaiian lifestyle, as well as the historical Hawaiian stories that one cannot live on an island in Hawaii without becoming conversant about. Upon receiving an offer to read Alan Brennert’s Daughter of Moloka’i, the sequel to Moloka’i, I realized I was gifted a lifetime gift.
I read Brennert’s first novel Moloka’i before reading its sequel, Daughter of Moloka’i, and writing my review. Within my heart, I had not lost my connection to the Hawaiian Islands. However, I want to be clear for the readers’ sake, it is not requisite for you to read the books consecutively. Brennert wrote both novels masterfully, which manifests itself in both books. It was also very obvious to me that Brennert was well acquainted with the Hawaiian Islands. Both novels are as beautifully written as the Hawaiian Islands themselves, and both novels permeate compassion, sorrow, loneliness, and all other human emotions we have within us, while depicting an accurate historical picture of the Hawaiian way of life long ago in Hawaii on the island of Moloka’i, the island where all lepers found themselves banished to for life. However, Ruth, the daughter of a leper was banished to Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu until she was adopted by a Japanese family that would eventually leave Honolulu, and relocates to California. Brennert also keenly accounts for Hawaii’s traditions and customs, many of which continue today throughout the Hawaiian islands.
What I found fascinating as I was reading, was that Brennert would write of places familiar to me which initially proved for difficult pronunciations for non-Hawaiians, places that remain as notable to me today as when I resided in Hawaii as a kama’aina, a Hawaiian resident; although, typically of Hawaiian heritage. And when Brennert used familiar terms such as “haole,” I could not help but smile warmly, remembering this was the Hawaiian term for the Caucasians that inhabited the Hawaiian Islands. After reading both novels, I was left wondering what it was that I kept awakening to each morning, something that continued to linger within me after I had read Brennert’s beautifully nostalgic stories. And it finally hit me, I was homesick for Hawaii, the Hawaiian people, and the Hawaiian way of life. Whether you have been to Hawaii or not, there is so much history to be garnered by reading Brennert’s novels. After reading both of Brennert’s books, I may decide one day to return to live again in Hawaii, a place unlike any other I’ve ever lived. I promise any reader; you will not forget Brennert’s novels.
I would like to thank Alan Brennert, St. Martins Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA’I: A Novel.